Congressmen Panetta and Young Lead Letter to House and Senate Armed Services Committees Urging Retention of Critical Anti-Hunger Provision for Military Families

September 26, 2019
Press Release

WASHINGTON, DC – Today, Congressmen Jimmy Panetta (D-CA) and Don Young (R-AK) sent a letter to House Armed Services Committee and Senate Armed Services Committee leadership requesting retention of Section 602 of the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) for Fiscal Year 2020. Section 602 provides a basic needs allowance for low-income military service members facing unique costs associated with military service. Frequent moves, high rates of spousal unemployment, and a lack of nearby family support are all factors compounding the ongoing problem of hunger in military communities, particularly in areas where benefits do not keep pace with high cost-of-living. The bipartisan letter was signed by 31 Members of Congress.

"Due to a technical barrier in the law that counts a servicemember’s housing allowance as income, many military families are ineligible for benefits under the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP).  We should be making it easier for military families to get assistance, not making it more difficult for them to put food on the table," said Congressman Panetta.  "The Military Family Basic Needs Allowance, included in the House-passed National Defense Authorization Act, will help to alleviate hunger in our communities and military families."

"Our nation’s service members are willing to fight and die to protect our country, and no member of our Armed Forces or their family members should be facing food insecurity," said Congressman Young.  "Section 602 of the NDAA provides a needed basic needs allowance for the military families working to keep their heads above water. Our military asks so much of them – relocating great distances, leaving their family support structure behind, and finding employment opportunities in new locations. The very least we can do is help our military families put food on their tables, and that is why I am proud to be leading this important letter advocating retention of Section 602 with my friend Congressman Jimmy Panetta. As the NDAA Conference Committee works together on a final bill, I will continue advocating for the well-being of military families across our nation."

"Congress has a window of opportunity to do the right thing and finally address food insecurity among military families," said Abby J. Leibman, President and CEO of MAZON: A Jewish Response to Hunger.  "We have been beating the drum on this issue for nearly ten years, pointing to the fact that military families are quietly turning in desperation to food pantries that operate on or near every military base in the country. This is completely unacceptable—those who make great sacrifices for our country should not struggle to provide regular, nutritious meals for their families. The Military Family Basic Needs Allowance proposes an innovative, bipartisan solution to the long-overlooked and shameful problem. We are grateful to the leadership and support of Representatives Young and Panetta, and others in the House and Senate, and we implore decision-makers to prioritize this provision in the final NDAA agreement."

"As an organization dedicated to improving the well-being of military families, we remain concerned that service members struggle to provide basic needs for their families and therefore quietly seek assistance from food pantries and distribution programs," said Kelly Hruska, Government Relations Director of National Military Family Association.  "Military families continue to face high operations tempo and high spouse unemployment rates which exasperate financial struggles that lead families to face food insecurity. Providing a basic needs allowance for lower income service members with a large household size will encourage retention as well as boost readiness of the entire family."

Click here for a full copy of the letter.